Atletico Madrid fail to claim La Liga title after draw to Malaga
An outstanding save by Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero denied Atletico Madrid the opportunity to wrap up the Primera Division title at their Vicente Calderon Stadium following their 1-1 draw on Sunday.
The Argentinian goalkeeper produced a fingertip save to keep out a curling shot from Adrian in the final minute of stoppage time, ensuring the game ended in a stalemate.
It sets up a mouthwatering showdown between Atletico and their nearest title rivals Barcelona next Sunday, with Diego Simeone’s side only requiring a point to lift their first league title in 18 years.
But Atletico will feel distraught that they failed to take advantage of Barcelona drawing at Elche, letting the chance to seal the title once and for all slip through their fingers.
Atletico created the better of the chances but fell behind to a shock goal by Samuel Garcia midway through the second half, as a result of a terrible mix up between their usually reliable defense and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
A header by Toby Alderweireld nine minutes later leveled things up and set up an enthralling finale, with Malaga finishing the game with 10 men as Marcos Angeleri was sent off in the final few minutes.
Atletico’s top scorer Diego Costa failed to recover in time from a hamstring injury, meaning David Villa led the attack instead. The first real chance of the game fell to Spain’s all-time top scorer. Juanfran launched a long ball towards the box from the right wing, Raul Garcia headed it into Villa’s path, but the striker smashed the top of the crossbar.
It was one of few chances in the first half, with Malaga refusing to make things easy for their hosts, although two golden opportunities arrived just before the break.
The first fell to Koke, who mis-hit a low cross from Juanfran wide of the far post. Then Raul Garcia got on the end of another cross from Juanfran, but could not steer his header on target.
Atleti created as many chances in the first 10 minutes of the second period as they did in the entirety of the first. Koke went close with a shot from outside the box, then Villa was denied by Caballero at the near post. The resulting corner eventually dropped to Koke, but Caballero gathered the ball before the midfielder could react.
Koke was then sacrificed for Adrian in an attacking move from Simeone, but then Atleti nearly fell behind to a Malaga counter, but were rescued by the quick reactions of Courtois, who raced off his line to thwart Roque Santa Cruz
Then came the shock of Atletico’s season. Malaga launched the ball up field and caught out the Atletico defense, causing Courtois to rush out of his area to intercept. Samuel got there first and saw his shot ricochet off Courtois and high into the air, and then followed the path of the ball to head it into the empty net.
Panic ensued at the Calderon, and things could have got even worse for the hosts a few minutes later, Sergi Darder striking just a few inches wide of a post from 20 yards out. Diego Ribas tried to rescue his team with a trademark distance shot, but Caballero got across to tip it away for a corner.
Then Atletico attempted a free-kick routine from the training ground. Gabi caught the Malaga wall by surprise by slipping the ball to Villa, but again Caballero made the save.
But it would prove third time lucky for the hosts. Gabi took the corner and Alderweireld rose to head straight into the far corner and lift the home crowd.
Once Atleti had equalized, however, they struggled to get back into their opponents area. Some crafty footwork by Diego opened up the Malaga defense, but his pass was a few feet short of Adrian, and the chance came to nothing.
Then Sosa which rippled the outside of the net from a free-kick, but there was still more drama to come. Adrian cut inside from the wing deep in stoppage time and curled the ball towards the top corner, but was denied by the finger tips of Caballero.
The resulting corner came to nothing, and now Atletico will have to do it all again next week in Barcelona.